Improving the Use of Science in Rulemaking

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Dynamic Benefit-Cost Analysis for Uncertain Futures

September 17, 2019

By: Susan E. Dudley, Daniel R. Pérez, Brian F. Mannix, & Christopher Carrigan
Policymakers face demands to act today to protect against a wide range of future risks, and to do so without impeding economic growth. Yet traditional analytical tools may not be adequate to frame the relevant uncertainties and tradeoffs. Challenges such as climate change, nuclear war, and widespread natural disasters don't lend themselves to decision rules designed for discrete policy questions and marginal analyses. We refer to such issues as "uncertain futures."

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Muddling-Through and Deep Learning for Managing Large-Scale Uncertain Risks

September 17, 2019

By: Tony Cox
Building on Charles Lindblom's research on the limits of rational-comprehensive decisionmaking, Tony Cox provides insights on how machine learning can help individuals and institutions make better informed decisions - improving society's experience of 'muddling through' policymaking under uncertainty.

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From Football to Oil Rigs: Risk Assessment for Combined Cyber and Physical Attacks

September 17, 2019

By: Fred S. Roberts
Reviewing risk assessment to scenarios of terrorist attacks on critical infrastructure including U.S. sporting venues and the international maritime transportation system. Fred Roberts notes that these assessments traditionally treat physical and cyber attacks separately and are inappropriate for considering the risk of combined attacks that include both a physical and cyber component. He proposes a framework informed by expert judgement to determine whether an attacker would likely prefer executing a combined or traditional physical attack on a given target.

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Nuclear War as a Global Catastrophic Risk

September 17, 2019

By: James Scouras
James Scouras identifies nuclear war as a global catastrophic risk and suggests that multidisciplinary studies that combine insights from "historical case studies, expert elicitation, probabilistic risk assessment, complex systems theory, and other disciplines" can address many of the shortcomings of single analytic approaches. He suggests that experts can address current gaps in their assessments of the consequences of nuclear weapons by further investigating understudied phenomena (e.g., the effects of electromagnetic pulses, nuclear winter, the prolonged effects of radiation).

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Responsible Precautions for Uncertain Environmental Risks

September 17, 2019

By: W. Kip Viscusi, Joel Huber, & Jason Bell
Elaborating on best practices for decisionmakers facing low probability, high consequence hazards. Viscusi, Huber, and Bell point out that these uncertain risks create incentives to pursue suboptimal policy approaches that potentially over commit public resources to less consequential hazards.

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Clean Power v. Clean Energy

July 31, 2019

By: Brian F. Mannix
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued three final regulatory actions governing greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. These rules will face new legal challenges based on both the economic analysis and the statutory authority for EPA’s actions. Mannix briefly reviews some of the major issues likely to be in contention.

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Privacy Research: The Need for Evidence in the Design of U.S. Privacy Policy

July 03, 2019

By: Daniel R. Pérez
This regulatory policy insight details the importance of using evidence to inform the development of U.S. privacy policy and identifies the kinds of evidence that would be particularly useful for policymakers to consider.

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Public Interest Comment: FDA's Proposed Rule on Mammography Standards

June 24, 2019

By: Bridget C.E. Dooling
Early detection of breast cancer can save lives, and mammography is one of the screening tools that has contributed to reductions in breast cancer mortality. The FDA has a unique role in mammography and should be commended for proposing to update its rules, however, the proposed rule’s breast density notification raises issues of state preemption; lessons that can be learned from testing, evaluation, and assessment of prior state action; and analysis of distributional and equity effects.

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Expanding OIRA Review to IRS

May 28, 2019

By Bridget C. E. Dooling
Executive Order 12866 describes U.S. policy on regulatory planning and review. It directs agencies to identify the nature and significance of the problem they are trying to solve with regulation, to identify alternative solutions, to assess the quantifiable and non-quantifiable costs and benefits of each alternative, and then to choose the option that maximizes net benefits to society, taking into account distributional effects and other considerations. That policy, which has governed U.S. regulation for several decades, is managed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). It is also subject to several exemptions. In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget signed a historic memorandum of agreement (MOA) narrowing one of those exemptions. The MOA expands the number of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulatory actions for which IRS must comply with EO 12866. This action moved tax rules out of the “presidential tax-policy blind spot” as described by Professor Clint Wallace. This working paper offers a close study of the MOA and reveals six striking features that not only affect tax regulation, but also offer intriguing possibilities for (1) scholarly understanding of OIRA as an institution and (2) the future of regulatory review of independent agencies, which is the largest remaining exemption from OIRA review.

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Planning for Everything (Besides Death and Taxes)

April 03, 2019

By Susan Dudley, Daniel R. Pérez, Brian Mannix, & Christopher Carrigan
As part of a GW Regulatory Studies Center series of working papers on “Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures,” this paper notes that policymakers face demands to act today to protect against a wide range of future risks, and to do so without impeding economic growth. Yet traditional analytical tools may not be adequate to frame the relevant uncertainties and tradeoffs. Challenges such as climate change, nuclear war, and widespread natural disasters don’t lend themselves to decision rules designed for discrete policy questions and marginal analyses. We refer to such issues as “uncertain futures.”

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Public Interest Comment: Increasing Transparency in Considering Costs and Benefits in the Rulemaking Process

August 14, 2018

By: Brian F. Mannix
In this comment, Mannix explores the reasons why the Environmental Protection Agency might choose to conduct a rulemaking on the general topic of how it considers benefits and costs, reviews some of the legal considerations that should be brought to bear on that effort, and recommends that the administration consider encouraging this type of activity in other agencies.

Transparency

Public Interest Comment: EPA's Benefit-Cost Analysis in the Rulemaking Process

August 13, 2018

By: Joseph J. Cordes
In this comment, Cordes discusses the value-added of using benefit-cost analysis in the regulatory process, the extent to which guidance is presently available on the application of benefit-cost analysis to regulatory analysis, the specific issue of which stakeholders should receive standing in benefit-cost analysis, and the inclusion of indirect effects, also referred to as co-benefits, in benefit-cost calculations.

Mosquito alert

Public Comment on FDA’s Public Availability of: Draft Environmental Assessment and Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact Concerning Investigational Use of Oxitec OX513A Mosquitoes

May 13, 2016

By Daniel R. Pérez
Genetically-modified mosquitoes hold great promise for addressing mosquito-borne diseases that threaten South Florida. Yet, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District has been waiting since 2011 for approval from FDA to allow the biotechnology company Oxitec to conduct field trials for this promising technology. This public interest comment points out that the trial poses no appreciable risk to human or animal health or the environment. The unusually lengthy timeframe for approval has unnecessarily limited our ability to combat the spread of life-threatening diseases, like Zika and Dengue.

EPA

Regulatory Science and Policy: A Case Study of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards

September 09, 2015

By Susan E. Dudley
Effective environmental policy depends on reliable scientific information and transparent policy choices; it is challenged not only when science is politicized, but also when policy is “scientized.” This paper suggests that current practices scientize policy and threaten not only regulatory outcomes, but the credibility of the scientific process. Using a case study of the procedures by which the Environmental Protection Agency sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards under the Clean Air Act, it illustrates some of the perverse incentives involved in developing regulations, and offers possible mechanisms to improve those incentives and resulting policy.

Crystalline 200

Will the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Proposed Standards for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica Reduce Workplace Risk?

March 26, 2015

By Susan E. Dudley & Andrew P. Morriss
This article finds that OSHA's proposed rule would contribute little in the way of new information, particularly since it is largely based on information that is at least a decade old—a significant deficiency, given the rapidly changing conditions observed over the last 45 years. The article concludes with recommendations for alternative approaches that would be more likely to generate information needed to improve worker health outcomes.